Acid rain is a kind of precipitation that falls when certain chemical compounds combine with water molecules in the atmosphere. These chemical compounds come from pollution, as emissions created from the burning of fossil fuels. Acid rain can fall all around the world, but is more highly concentrated in areas that are downwind from power plants that are responsible for the large scale burning of fossil fuels. The Adirondack Park, which is located in upstate New York, is one of these areas that is impacted by a higher concentration of acid rain.
Acid rain was first discovered by a scientist from England, but his work was not recognized until later on when connections were made between pollution and acid rain in Canada, Europe, North America, and Australia. It can have impacts on ecosystems such as causing nutrients to be taken out of soil, eroding rock surfaces, and causing bodies of water to become more acidic. These impacts can be seen in the Adirondacks, with the source of acid rain being coal-fueled power plants in the Midwest.
The impacts that acid rain can have can be devastating to the surrounding ecosystems. Air pollution has nitrogen oxides in it, which when combined with rain can easily enter bodies of water. When this happens, the nitrogen oxides can increase the rate at which aquatic plants reproduce. This can result in eutrophication, which is when other aquatic life, such as fish, suffocate and die off due to a lack of oxygen in the water. On land, acid rain has similar impacts. Acid rain can alter the chemistry of forest soils, making them either more or less acidic. This change in soil chemistry can lead to different nutrients in the soil becoming more and less abundant. Plant species depend on particular levels of nutrients, which must remain within a certain range for the plant to survive. The components in acid rain enter the soil when it falls, and disrupt the balance of nutrients, and can cause plant species to die off. Acid rain can also impact rock surfaces. Any kind of exposed rock surface can be eroded away by acid rain. This can have an impact on the structure of mountains, by weakening the exposed rock and altering its shape, as well as increasing the potential for landslides and rock falls. Other rock surfaces such as gravestones and statues can be altered by acid rain as well.
The Adirondacks were once greatly impacted by acid rain. In the 1970s, the scientists who made the connection between pollution and acid rain grasped the attention of governments, policymakers, the media, and the public. These groups of people realized the importance of this issue, and took action to further protect the environment from acid rain. These actions led to the creation of the first air pollution regulations ever created in the United States. These regulations called for the reduction of the emission of the chemical compounds that are the main components of acid rain. Europe, Australia, and other eastern countries were soon to follow in their air pollution regulation efforts.
Since these new air pollution regulations were put in place, there has been a drastic change worldwide in the quality of the environments that were once severely impacted by acid rain. In the Adirondacks alone, ecosystems both in the water and on land have greatly improved. Waters have become less acidic and fish species that were once subjected to eutrophication have begun to recover and repopulate. Plant species such as the sugar maple, which is iconic to the northeastern United States, have also made a recovery because of pollution regulation efforts.
Places all around the world are being impacted by so much more than just acid rain. The Adirondack park is only one example of a place being able to recover from something that once had such a negative impact. It has been proven time and time again that taking action, and being persistent, is an effective way for an issue to be resolved. It is up to us to speak up for what we think is wrong so we can be a part of the solution.